Based in Leicestershire (UK), Optonica Ltd was formed in June 1991 by Lee Gibson as a multimedia software development and publishing company, to produce CD-based interactive reference titles for the consumer market and multimedia software for use in industry. One of the primary aims of the company was to achieve an infrastructure which was evenly balanced between software engineering and multimedia production, as companies often specialised in software development or production but very rarely both.
Optonica were (one of) the first developers in the world to learn of the CDTV. In fact, Lee Gibson as then-director of Digigraphic Ltd produced the first ever CDTV demo shown by Commodore USA at the March 1991 Winter CES show in Las Vegas, and made a presentation to American developers the first time they were shown the CDTV in Los Angeles. Following the CES show, however, Digigraphic Ltd was forced into liquidation and Optonica was set-up a mere few months later to focus on multimedia software.
In January 1992, Kevin Stevens joined Optonica as Technical Director. During the first year Optonica worked on a joint project with Commodore USA, INSIGHT: Technology, an interactive CD-based reference title that was published by them. Optonica also formed an association with CD Interactive Ltd (a manufacturer of Video Walls in the UK) and its parent company The Mortimer Group, who purchased a 51% stake in them. The Mortimer Group's interests included warehousing and distribution, plastics, high power electrical devices and AV supplies, including their own manufactured Video Walls and Video Cubes. This gave Optonica a great deal of financial security, and afforded them an extended research and development period in which to gain an advantage over potential competitors.
Following those events, the company continued to develop/publish CDTV (and later CD32) multimedia reference titles and applications (multimedia authoring, data conversion and management software) for both the consumer market and industry clients. Additionally, they continued to work on software development for the CDI Video Wall systems (designed and manufactured in the UK, but most were sold/installed in the USA), allowing them to be tailored to vertical markets (e.g. sporting venues and retail chains).
Notably, Optonica developed the Amiga software system for use with the CDI Video Wall that was used at American sporting venues which hosted the Superbowl in the 1990s. It featured real time animations, scoreboard, clock, scrolling messages, stats and software-controlled video sourcing from video decks and even cameras. During the 1990s, the company was also responsible for the installation of two giant video wall scoreboards at the £14 million stadium built for Wolverhampton Wanderers FC. The whole system was driven by two linked Amigas and utilised both the Studio VIP (turned the video wall into a full production and presentations system, with integral video digitising, video wall control, video & laser disc control and point-to-multimedia-point data uplink) and Superbowl software systems. Optonica were also responsible for all graphic, animation and video production utilised throughout each Wolves match. [Source: CD32 Gamer, Issue 12 (May '95), pp22-24]